Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pulgasari (1985)-

Pulgasari (1985)

April 7th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

Anything originating from North Korea tends to take on a surrealistic, otherworldly quality. When Kim Jong-Il decided to produce a uplifting giant monster movie this trend went into overdrive. The plot is simple enough, and set in olden times. An evil ruler abuses his the people by forcing them to work at slave labor and denying them basic necessities. So through the tears and prayers of a beaten old man a doll is imbued with life and then slowly becomes a giant, metal eating monster who kills the peoples oppressive ruler.
The story is a metaphor for the South, America and capitalism, but likely only a North Korean would view it as such. For such a project Kim Jong-Il needed an experienced director and so he had him kidnaped and taken to the North. The man was Shin Sang-ok who was lured to Hong Kong while searching for his actress ex-wife who had also been kidnaped. Eventually Shin along with his wife whom he had reconciled with during the ordeal managed to escape. They encountered a mixed reaction in the South and he eventually relocated to the United States where he continued to work as a producer creating the 3 Ninjas series of films.
One of the strangest twists to this story is the involvement of Teruyoshi Nakano and Kenpachiro Satsuma of the Toho Studio in the film. This is counterintuitive on many levels. Firstly hatred of the Japanese and their colonialist abuses is a major tenant of North Korean political life, even more so in the 1980's. Secondly, why the major Japanese movie studio would work on a North Korean film in the era when Japanese civilians were being kidnaped to the North is anyone’s guess. In the end it all comes back to the strange nature of the North in which applying any kind of logic to its doings is a haphazard endeavor.

North Korea, Directors Shin Sang-ok, Chong Gon Jo, Producer by Kim Jong-il, Cast Chang Son Hui, Ham Gi Sop, Jong-uk Ri and Gwon Ri, 95 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles

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